Multiple POVs

I absolutely love multiple point of view narratives. They aren’t essential to my love of a book, but it makes me so happy when I find beautifully handled multiple viewpoint stories.

Consequently, I noticed that I always planned for several viewpoint characters in my own writing, despite finding it really tricky to write. So, when I started work on The Paradise Swarm, I decided it would be a single viewpoint story.

I wanted to finish the story and I thought the simplicity and straightforwardness of one single point of view character would help. I thought too, that it would be easier to find his voice – and that has worked, somewhat.

I’ve now changed my mind. See, the single viewpoint character for The Paradise Swarm was, among other things, an upper-class white man. The other main character, who is just as important to me, and the story, is a woman of colour. While I never intended it in that way, I realised that her not being a viewpoint character made her appear less important to the story, and she really isn’t.

There are, of course, many things about both of them besides their gender and ethnicity, for instance:

Laurence is a botanist and the fourth son of an aristocratic family, thrown out by his father after he stopped believing in god. His sexual orientation doesn’t feature in the story, as he is more interested in science than anything else.

Mara was adopted by a countryside gentleman after her family died when she was a child. She is well-educated and is now working for herself, but she does encounter pretty horrid racism and sexism on a daily basis, because it’s London in the 1850s. She’s also heterosexual and Catholic.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to make her a viewpoint character – and I don’t mean just ethical sense, I really think it will make for a stronger narrative too. As Laurence is her lodger, they spend most of the book together. If they get separated or he gets hit on the head, it’ll be useful to have her point of view, and it will allow me to show how prejudiced and wrong each of them is towards the other early in the book.

In the scene I’m currently writing, two police officers come to investigate reports of screams coming from the house. They interrogate Mara, insulting and threatening her quite a bit as they go, until Laurence, who has been listening in, intervenes and plays his rank to get them off her case. I started writing this from Laurence’s point of view, and it very quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t work. It was clunky and awkward. From Mara’s point of view, it’s pretty much writing itself.

I’m definitely happy that I made the change, and though it is going to mean significant changes to the first few chapters, I’m convinced it’ll be worth it. I always end up cutting a lot from my beginnings, so I’m not surprised that this one won’t be any different.

writers block

Writing atrophy

I haven’t written a word of fiction for more than three months.

Real life has been very busy, with work going into overdrive at my office and having to move.

Of course I’m sure it didn’t help that I launched an exciting and time-consuming new website only a few weeks ago, as soon as work resumed its normal level of business.

Needless to say, I’ve already fallen off the Get Your Words Out wagon. I tell myself that it’s because I don’t use LJ much at all anymore that I’ve missed reporting my wordcount so many months in a row, but in truth I’m sure that if I’d had anything positive to report, I would have been all over my journal posting about it.

I remember how excited I was last month to start writing again, and how much I relished the opportunity to dedicate a full afternoon to The Paradise Swarm. The afternoon came and I sat in front of my open Scrivener document for a good 30 minutes, typing and deleting sentence fragments over and over again. I eventually had to pick up a book of prompts and exercises and work on that for an hour or so to warm up my writing muscles, before I was able to produce a miserly and pretty useless few hundred words. Cue disappointment, lack of self-belief, and all that jazz.

I know this is all very ‘woe is me’ but I only mean to underline how much more daunting the prospect of writing regularly becomes when one doesn’t do it, or has never successfully done it. I love my story, and I want to make progress on it. However slowly I was writing last year, I want to regain at least that.

So, I’m going to keep trying, and keep looking for strategies to motivate myself, and keep the writing ball rolling once I’ve actually started again. Does anyone have tips or strategies to keep the mojo going when life or work gets in the way?


Introducing Many A True Nerd

As if life weren’t busy or exciting enough lately, I’ve just started work on a new awesome (and time-consuming!) project.

I’d been wanting to write about a whole host of geeky things for a while, but couldn’t find a home for my writing. There are many awesome geeky news sites out there, but the ones I liked & thought I had a shot writing for didn’t really focus on the subjects I wanted to cover.

Some would have TV and games, but not crafts and baking; some would have geeky things for the home but not boardgames; some would have books but nothing else, etc.

Add to that the fact that I know so many talented and nerdy writers, and an idea started to form. I’m obsessed with creating and maintaining websites, and I’m also a proud grammar pedant. In fact I’ve been editing @AlastairJRBall online serial The First 500 for some months now and I love doing that. I thought, if there isn’t a platform exactly like I want, I should just create it.

I could start a new site, dedicated to the type of geek news me and my friends are interested in. That could mean basically anything. Really silly or really in-depth things, from gifs to interviews, from reviews to let’s plays, from opinion pieces to recipes, in any and all fandom. I’ve heard too much crap about who is a ‘real nerd’ or a ‘fake geek’. I don’t think these distinctions are helpful or based in much truth. The geek world I know is varied and fascinating and that’s what I wanted to explore with this new site.

When I started telling my friends about this idea, they rose to the occasion even better than I had hoped. Jon wanted to try out new online marketing strategies and make Let’s Plays; @AlastairJRBall wanted to write about cinema, @NickMB about comics; @LorelaiSquared had just done awesome interviews of the Welcome To Sanditon cast and crew; @Jenepel wanted to help with a potential podcast.

I’m so, so excited to add another little brick to the big, bad interwebs, in the shape of our new online magazine, Many A True Nerd. Please check out the website, twitter feed and the YouTube channel and do all the like-comment-subscribe-follow thinggies if you do like it.

We are also looking for new writers, so if you are interested in writing for Many A True Nerd, email us at manyatruenerd [at] gmail [dot] com.


Writing in non-November Months

I had only written a few things before I moved to the UK, including some really bad fanfiction and a generic epic fantasy first chapter starring a feisty young princess with flowing red hair and a mysterious elf with two apostrophes in his name.

It was only after my first Nanowrimo, having met the amazing NanoLondon writing community, that I started to write original fiction.

I didn’t write much, and my output was extremely inconsistent in terms of quantity.
Let’s not discuss the quality, okay?

Last year I wrote 100,000 words across all of my writing projects, including this blog – meaning that it took eleven non-November months to write as much as I wrote during November. Not a great result, though it was definitely progress. Earlier this year, I entered a LiveJournal challenge called Get Your Words Out, aiming for 150,000 words in the year.

I won’t lie, I’m not keeping up with the monthly goals I’ve set for myself at the moment, but the year is only just beginning. I’m hoping I’ll be able to pick up the pace once I’ve gotten more practise under my belt. I’m always trying to set up regular writing habits for myself, and I’ve never been very successful at it. When I started writing The Paradise Swarm again, though, with a plan, a word count goal, and some scenes in mind, things seemed to pick up quite a bit.

Progress is definitely very slow, but it is at least steady, and I think the slower pace allows for better quality too. I brought some of the novel to read to my Critique Group, who were very encouraging and told me to just keep writing.

As I tend to fall prey fairly easily to the ‘Work on this one scene for six months until it shines’ monster, I made an extra effort to take that one on board. One scene gave me quite a bit of grief, so much so, that in the end I straight up ignored it and moved on to the next. Truth be told, as it’s currently in Chapter Two, and I’m pretty bad at beginnings, it’s probably going to die a nasty death later on, rather than being re-written. So all’s good.

The next few months look to be fairly bad in terms of productivity as work is getting busier and I have to move soon, but I’m going to try and keep writing through the chaos.


Writing Goals for 2013

As a great lover of lists, particularly To-Do ones, I love the New Year.

It’s time to look back over the past year (pretty good, all things considered), and set myself some goals for the coming 12 months.

I’ve started a list of Things To Do in 2013 over at DayZeroProject.com, including some writing goals.

Finish the first draft of The Paradise Swarm
This is my main objective for the year. As I currently only have 8,000 words done out of a planned 90,000, it’s going to be tricky and take some serious work, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. I’m hoping to write 2,000 words a week in order to finish the draft by October and be ready to start something new for NaNoWriMo.

Write 10 pieces of flash fiction
As much as I want to plough on with The Paradise Swarm, I’ve been wanting to write more short form. Ten stories of less than a thousand words (that’s one a month until NaNoWriMo) should be easy enough to manage in terms of word count, but still a good exercise.

Complete NaNoWriMo
This will be my sixth year entering, and hopefully my fifth win. I’m slowly but steadily getting better at balancing being a Municipal Liaison for a busy city and writing a first draft in a month, so I’m sure 2013 will be a great Nano.

Maintain blog and post regularly
I don’t write very fast and tend to second guess a lot of what I put down on the page as I write it. Blogging has been a great way for me to practice writing in a more fluid manner, so I definitely want to do more of that.

Also on my long list: Read 52 books (I’ve attempted it for the past couple of years and only barely managed it in 2011) and Attend writing group regularly (I’ve already started doing that, but I’m seeing the benefits so clearly I want to make sure I keep going).